Introduction: Using Adobe Photoshop's RAW Plug-In

Estimated Time to Complete: ~45 minutes

This instructable will outline a basic Adobe Photoshop RAW plug-in workflow and will teach you how to improve the un-edited images that come straight out of your camera.

Required Materials

  • Camera capable of storing uncompressed, RAW image files (i.e. most modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras should have this option)
  • Computer
  • Adobe Photoshop CC License

Step 1: Opening Your File

    Find the RAW file that you wish to edit in your directory and right click Open with > Adobe Photoshop CC. Photoshop will automatically recognize the RAW file and will take you directly to the RAW plug-in editor.

    Definitions

    RAW file - an uncompressed image file that can be output by most modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Storing images as RAW files saves all of the color information gathered by the sensor while taking an image (unlike a .jpeg file which compresses the image and color data). This maximizes what can be done in post-processing software (i.e. Photoshop).

    Step 2: Make Adjustments to the Overall Image (Round I)

    Before we start choosing what specific components of the image we want to edit, take some time to play with the editing options on the toolbar to the right. For this image I did the following:

    1. Increased the temperature to (5650). The image originally had a lot of cool colors in it. I increased the temperature by (~250) to make the image a little warmer.
    2. Decreased the highlights to (-26). The clouds were originally a little washed out/overexposed. I decreased the highlights to darken them and bring out their edges.
    3. Increased the shadows to (+40). The pylons were originally very dark and you could not see the figures. I increased the shadows so that the viewer can actually see what is on the pylons (i.e. the figures, weather stains, etc.)

    Definitions

    Cool colors - colors with low saturation (i.e. blue, green, violet)

    Step 3: Apply a Gradient Filter

    This step may not be required for all images. Gradient filters are great for when you want to make changes to only the sky and not the foreground (or vice versa). Do the following:

    1. Click the gradient icon in the top toolbar
    2. Drag the gradient filter from the top of the image down to about the horizon line
    3. Click the layer mask button at the bottom right of your screen
    4. Once positioned, turn off the layer mask
    5. Apply your edits to the gradient filter region you have just defined

    For this image, I choose to decrease the highlights, add a little bit of saturation, and apply some noise reduction to the shaded region. These changes were made to bring out the detail of the clouds, warm up the sky, and get rid of some of the low-light image grain, respectively.

    Definitions

    Layer mask - highlights the area that will be affected by, in this case, the gradient filter. Any changes while still in this tool will only apply to the areas shaded in red. The layer mask does not need to be on for the edits to be made, it is simply makes it easier to see which regions of the image will be affected by the filter.

    Noise reduction - this image was taken in low-light conditions; therefore, there is some grainy-ness (i.e. noise) to it if you were to zoom in closely on the image. Noise reduction simply smooths out the image.

    Step 4: Apply a Radial Filter(s)

    Radial filters are similar to gradient filters in the sense that they are a selective editing tool. To apply a radial filter follow the following steps:

    1. Click the radial filter icon in the top toolbar
    2. Drag the filter over the subject that you wish to edit
    3. Click the layer mask button at the bottom right of your screen. Again, this is solely intended to show you where the edits are being applied
    4. Once positioned, turn off the layer mask
    5. Apply your edits to the gradient filter region you have just defined

    For this image, I applied a radial filter over each of the figures on the Pylons. I then increased the shadows/whites and saturation to draw attention to the figures and make it look like there are lights shining on them.

    Step 5: Edit a Selection Using the Adjustment Brush Tool

    Sometimes a gradient filter or radial filter won't do the trick due to their geometric constraints; therefore, use the adjustment brush tool to free-hand-select where you want to edit. Follow these steps to select an area to edit:

    1. Click the adjustment brush icon in the top toolbar
    2. Click the layer mask button at the bottom right of your screen so that you can see what areas you are selecting
    3. Brush the areas you wish to edit**
    4. Once you have selected the areas you wish to edit, turn off the layer mask
    5. Apply your edits to the region you just defined

    For this image, I used the adjustment brush tool to edit the trees on the right and left due to their complex geometry. Once I selected the area I wanted to edit, I increased the highlights, shadows/whites, and saturation with the intent of both brightening the trees and bringing out the detail in their branches.

    **Note: the size and density of the adjustment brush tool can be changed in the toolbar to the right of your screen

    Step 6: Edit a Selection Using the Adjustment Brush Tool (Continued)

    The same techniques described in the previous step apply to this step. For this specific image, the goal was to bring out some of the cloud details near the sunset area and add some warmer colors to the image.

    Step 7: Make Adjustments to the Overall Image (Round II)

    Now that you have made edits to multiple areas through the use of selective editing tools (i.e. gradient filters, radial filters, adjustment brushes, etc.), repeat Step 2 and return to the overall image editor and make any final touches.

    For this image, I thought that it was overall still a little too dark after selective editing so I increased both the highlights and shadows values from the values that I originally set in Step 2 to brighten the image.

    Step 8: Compare the Before and After Version of the Image

    Click the side-by-side comparison tool at the bottom right of your screen. This will show you the original image on the left (with no edits) and the final image on the right (with all of the edits that you just performed).

    Step 9: Prepare to Export the Image

    To leave the Photoshop RAW plug-in tool, click the open button at the bottom right of your screen. Once the image opens, click the following path at the top left of your screen: File > Export > Export as. Once the image exporter has opened, select the JPG option from the top right drop-down and click Export All.

    Step 10: Find Your Exported Image in Your Directory

    Confirm that your edited image was exported to your file directory.

    Step 11: Compare Your Final Edit to the Original Image File

    Now that the editing process is complete and you have exported your final image, take a moment to compare your original, unedited image with your final, edited image.

    Comments

    author
    DIY Hacks and How Tos made it! (author)2017-03-11

    Great tutorial. I really need to start using RAW more with my photography projects.